By Lesley-Caren Johnson

An operations and procedures manual (OPM) should be written specifically for the business and the way it expects its franchisees to operate their own units. Drafting a manual for a franchise is not an exercise that should be undertaken to simply “check the box”. The Consumer Protection Act states that franchisees must be provided with clear instructions pertaining to the running of the business and if a generic manual, or a copy / paste job is used, it is going to present all the parties with several issues which makes it difficult to manage the network and protect the brand. Here are the five reasons why you should not accept an OPM that it is too generic or is a copy / paste document – especially where this was drafted by an external consultant.

1. It is not reflective of the business

An OPM that is too generic or too broad is not reflective of the business or the way in which you want the franchisees to manage and run their operations. The OPM should provide specific company policy pertaining to any aspect of the operation that a franchisee should adhere to. If adherence is not achieved, the franchisor is at risk for the franchisees’ decisions and actions bringing the brand into disrepute. This is not only a negative for the franchisor but can have a disastrous effect on the network as a whole and the other franchisees.

2. It is unenforceable

Your franchise agreement should address the fundamental clauses that govern the relationship between the parties and refer to the OPM for everything else. If it does, this means that all aspects of the business pertaining to legal and statutory obligations, day to day operations, administration and finance, marketing, sales and the brand, as well as the staffing requirements will be addressed in the OPM. If hard and fast policies are not documented in the OPM, what recourse does the franchisor have when a franchisee goes rogue? Franchisors find it extremely difficult to enforce certain business policies and procedures if these are not contained in writing and franchisees are not familiar with them. Furthermore, if the franchise agreement refers to the OPM for all policies and procedures and these don’t exist, well the franchise agreement is weakened and the franchisor has very little hope of getting franchisees to comply with its requirements.

3. It can’t be used by franchisor staff to support and train franchisees

One of the key tenets of franchising is that the franchisor provides ongoing support and training to the franchisees and their employees. Without clearly documented business policies, procedures and guidelines, the franchisor’s support staff will find it increasingly difficult to render this support consistently. Furthermore, policies and procedures which are perceived (rather than clearly documented) or passed on by word of mouth have an interesting way of “getting lost in translation” and eventually each franchisor support representative is doing what he / she “thinks” is correct. This does not bode well if you’re trying to achieve consistency of operations and standards across all franchisees in the network.

4. Franchisees won’t use it

Franchisees will see very quickly if the OPM they’ve been given access to is relevant to the business and the brand. If franchisees feel that the content of the manual is not going to assist them to manage the business, the OPM will be placed on the proverbial shelf and left to gather dust. Franchisees will then find their own way of doing things and their approach to solving business-related issues will be reactionary, a “shoot from the hip” approach if you will, which won’t necessarily comply with the franchisor standards in this regard. This is not good for the brand.

5. Not enough “meat”

In addition to the franchisor’s non-negotiable policies and procedures, an OPM should also provide the franchisees with other resources and tools they can utilise to effectively manage the business, grow the brand, develop their employees and be more profitable. Such resources could include toolkits (for HR, health and safety, risk management etc.), training material they can use to train their staff on an ongoing basis, and other checklists and templates to make it a little easier for them – especially for franchisees who are new to business. This extra “meat on the bones” of your OPM will ensure that franchisees see the value in using the manual in their business; it will become their go-to whenever they need something to deal with a specific problem or issue.

In addition to the above, if the manual is updated regularly to reflect ongoing changes in business, your industry, and the operations, franchisees will make use of this amazing resource and if will become an effective tool for managing the network and ensuring that sometimes elusive consistency across all franchised business units.